Almost a week after the Champions League final in Paris descended into chaos and violence at the Stade de France, Uefa finally issued an apology on Friday to supporters for the “frightening and distressing events” at the match.
In a statement that also set out the terms of reference for the “independent review” Uefa itself has set up, European football’s governing body said it “wishes to sincerely apologise to all spectators who had to experience or witness frightening and distressing events in the buildup to the Uefa Champions League final at the Stade de France on 28 May 2022 in Paris, on a night which should have been a celebration of European club football. No football fan should be put in that situation, and it must not happen again.”
However, the apology, which Liverpool supporters have been calling for all week, stopped short of Uefa accepting responsibility for any of the serial failures that marred European football’s showpiece season finale. Nor did Uefa retract the two statements made on the night, which instantly blamed Liverpool supporters for the delay, first alleging “late arrival” then claiming the problems were caused by “thousands of fans who had purchased fake tickets”.
Liverpool have questioned the independence of Uefa’s review, and that of the Portuguese MP appointed to conduct it, Dr Tiago Brandão Rodrigues. A former sports minister in Portugal from 2015 to this year, Rodrigues worked closely in that role with Tiago Craveiro, then the chief executive of the Portuguese Football Federation (PFF), who earlier this year was appointed as an adviser to Uefa.
Liverpool’s supporters’ trust, Spirit of Shankly, has also expressed skepticism about the review and Rodrigues’s independence, saying in a statement: “His credentials to undertake this role are unclear and we don’t know whether he is up to the job or how independent he really is, as there has been no consultation nor clarification of his previous experience. In order for the record to be set straight, the investigation needs to be rigorous, swift and firmly independent. It needs proper scope and access to all relevant evidence, and it needs to be open and transparent.”
Uefa has acknowledged that Rodrigues “had a working relationship” with many people in Portuguese sport including the PFF, but said his experience, including when Portugal hosted the first Uefa Nations League finals and the last two Champions League finals, made him” “ideally placed ” to lead the review. Rodrigues will be supported by a secretariat that Uefa will also help, and he has said he will work on the review without payment.
The terms of reference issued by Uefa state that the review’s objective is to “comprehensively examine event planning, implementation, decision making, responsibility and behavior of all entities involved in the final”, and promised to “draw conclusions and make recommendations for Uefa and the relevant stakeholders”.
Uefa has promised to engage in the process with supporters groups including those of Liverpool and Real Madrid, and the umbrella group Football Supporters Europe.
The final, which Real Madrid won 1-0, was delayed by 36 minutes as French police held supporters for hours outside in barely moving queues. Several turnstiles for Liverpool supporters were then closed without explanation, and many fans, including those with VIP tickets, reported difficulties with the ticket scanners and stewards telling them the tickets were fake. The Paris police have been heavily criticized for alleged failures in the management of the crowd, and for liberally using teargas on well-behaved supporters held in the queues.
When announcing the delay, first on the big screen in the stadium, which was then relayed to the game’s global TV audience, Uefa first stated that it was caused by “late arrival of fans”. Almost immediately after the match, Uefa issued a statement, which is still up on its website, stating that the cause of the delayed kick-off was that “the turnstiles at the Liverpool end became blocked by thousands of fans who had purchased fake tickets” .
The French minister of the interior, Gérald Darmanin, then claimed that “30-40,000” Liverpool supporters were at the stadium with tickets produced by an “industrial scale fraud,” and neither he nor the French government has yet retracted that claim.
Liverpool and the club’s supporters have reacted with astonishment and fury to those claims, with Billy Hogan, Liverpool’s chief executive, demanding an apology and describing the accusations as irresponsible, inflammatory and an attempt to shift blame.
Supporters of both clubs have since said they were attacked and robbed on the walk from the stadium after the match by young men from the area surrounding the stadium. Earlier on Friday afternoon Real Madrid made a statement calling for “answers and explanations” about how the Stade de France came to be designated as the final venue, and why their fans were left “unattended and defenseless”. Saying that their supporters’ behavior was “exemplary at all times”, the club’s statement said: “As clearly seen in the revealing images provided by the media, many of the fans were assaulted, harassed, mugged and robbed with violence.”
Uefa said its review should be concluded “within the shortest possible timeframe needed to produce a comprehensive review of the events”.